Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oil Profits From Disaster

Oil has pushed itself well over $100 per barrel this week. Middle East unrest, the intervention in Libya, and the Japan tsunami and nuclear disaster have combined to create chaos in the energy market and that equals a big profit from tragedy for oil companies yet again. With gulf coast industries still recovering, BP has decided that now is the right time to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, less than a year after their massive spill dumped millions of barrels into the waters there. However, critics claim that the moratorium on offshore drilling is choking off domestic production and BP has learned its lesson.

In fact, domestic oil production increased markedly in 2009 and 2010, climbing higher than when George W. Bush, a well-known friend to big oil, was President. Additionally, more than two-thirds of current offshore claims are not being used and 45% of land-based claims sit unused as well. There is no shortage of claims for the industry to exploit; they’re not even using the ones they already have.

As far as learning its lesson, BP and its partners in the spill seem to have learned little. Just this month Transocean, a BP partner and one of the parties identified in the U.S. government investigation as responsible for the disaster, paid bonuses to their executives for exceeding internal safety targets and even called it their ‘best year’ for safety, despite the disaster. Talk about setting a low bar.

The oil industry profits from the chaos and uncertainty often brought on by violent world events and natural disasters and have a poor record in correcting their mistakes. As the economic downturn continues worldwide and Americans head into the summer travel season it doesn’t take much to understand we can’t afford to continue to depend on oil. It’s expensive, unstable, exploitative, and harmful to our environment and the industries and jobs that depend upon it. As Americans, none of us can afford to stick with oil.